Message of equality

Lake area woman spreads ’hope and acceptance’ with billboard campaign

Joyce L. Miller
Lake Sun, USA TODAY NETWORK
A Confederate flag has been flying for months along Highway 54 just outside of Eldon. One woman has leased a billboard in response.

Amanda Burrows doesn’t disagree with anyone’s right to free speech, in fact she says it is one of the rights that makes America great. Nor is she on a crusade to remove what she believes is a symbol of racism and oppression, a large Confederate flag, that has been put up on private property overlooking Highway 54 near Eldon.  

What she does hope to accomplish is to send a stronger message of hope and acceptance. Burrows has spearheaded an effort to raise money for a billboard that sits next to the large flag, with a simple yet powerful message…Equality, bigger than hate.  

Burrows, who lives in Tuscumbia, said she has been bothered by the presence of the flag since it was put up. She believes in respectful and responsible dialogue and that’s how she has approached her disdain for the racism the flag represents to her.

The flag is visible to motorists traveling east and west on the busy highway that is the main route for many coming to visit Lake of the Ozarks.

The flag is hard to miss. At night it is illuminated by a large spotlight, drawing attention to what some believe is a symbol of hate and racism which is sending the wrong message about Lake of the Ozarks.

“I think it is really important to have a bigger message than what the Confederate flag represents,” she said. “I was tired of it being there and the view of oppression it sends. I knew prior to the flag, that among the people that I know, how some felt about minorities. But I felt we had to send another message. It may not change minds of those who support what the flag stands for but it is a loud and clear message.”

Burrows said she respects the right to free speech and the history behind the Confederate flag, but she personally had to find a powerful way to speak out — to counter balance the view the flag portrayed of the lake community.

“I think it is important that we welcome everyone,” she said. That is what lead her to lease a billboard next to where the flag had been installed. Now, as motorists pass, the attention to the flag is shared with the “Equality, bigger than hate” message Burrows choose for the sign.

Burrows leased the billboard and has focused her attention on raising enough funds through a GoFundMe account. She started out slow, with support from family and a group of friends. Initially she hoped to raise enough to maintain the sign for the next six months. Her goal was $3,850. As of July 18, Burrows had surpassed $37,000 with more than 770 donors in the last several days. The donations have come from across the county and from as far away as Switzerland.

“It has exceeded my wildest expectations,” Burrows said.

The flag went up earlier this year. The location was questioned initially due to its proximity to the highway. The Missouri Department of Transportation confirmed it was located on private property and not highway-right-of-way.

Public opinion on the flag has been a mix of those in support of the right of the landowners to publicly display their beliefs and freedom of speech but condemning the flag’s message, and others who support it.

Burrows said the GoFundMe page will at some point be shut down. In the meantime, she said there will be discussion about what the next step will be to continue to promote the message of equality.

To see the page or donate go to: https://ie.gofundme.com/f/equality-bigger-than-hate